Tomas Satoransky is kind of a big deal in the Czech Republic, in case you hadn’t heard. The Wizards point guard is the only Czech-born player currently in the National Basketball Association and with that comes a good deal of rewards.
Satoransky is a certified celebrity in his home country, and in recent summers since he reached the NBA, that has translated into endorsement opportunities including television commercials and magazine covers. As a rookie, when he first went to what he says is the only Czech restaurant in Washington, D.C., those who worked there recognized him as soon as he walked in the door.
Satoransky had made a name for himself as a key player for Spain’s FC Barcelona of the EuroLeague before he joined the Wizards. But playing in the NBA has taken his Q-rating back home to new heights.
“Being able to be around and just have the logo of the NBA on your shirt, it’s a big thing in our country, for sure,” he said. “We don’t have that many fans of basketball, but whenever you speak about the NBA, you speak about a show. Hollywood, America, you know?”
That fame also carries responsibility and Satoransky is still adjusting to it. He has a platform that is unique for his stature as an NBA player. There are thousands of Czech kids who look up to him as a sports hero, someone who has accomplished things few from their country ever have before.
Satoransky has current and former teammates who know this role well. Wizards center Ian Mahinmi runs basketball camps for kids in the summertime in both Montpellier, France and Benin in Western Africa.
Mahinmi has plans to expand his camps to other cities and cherishes the opportunity to impact young kids from the places he himself has roots.
“You get back home and you can see the look on the kids’ faces. Whether you are with the kids or their parents, you can see it on their face like ‘wow, this guy is really on the other side of the sea,’” he said.
“It’s always a humbling experience. It gives you a feeling that is really hard to explain. At the end of the day, you are very proud of yourself and your family. To be put in that position is very strong.”
Center Marcin Gortat, who was traded by the Wizards to the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason, offered guidance to Satoransky to help his outreach efforts overseas. When Gortat was a young player, he sought advice from foreign-born teammates like Hedo Turkoglu of Turkey and Steve Nash of Canada and hopes to pay it forward with Satoransky.
Gortat has met Satoransky’s team of agents and business associates and believes he is laying the proper groundwork to someday develop a platform like Gortat has in Poland. Gortat holds camps in the summer and has been described by teammates who have attended them as a Michael Jordan-like figure back home.
“One thing that is good is that he’s a very smart and hard-working person,” Gortat said of Satoransky. “He could be someone who is very important in his country. One thing I can tell him is that it’s going to take a lot of time out of his own free time in the summers. It’s going to take a lot of time to do all the stuff that I’m doing. It’s only one way. Once you start it, you can’t stop it.”
Satoransky has been receptive to advice from Gortat, Mahinmi and others in the process of carving his own niche back home. He said he looks up to them and is “trying to do similar things.”
Satoransky isn’t on Gortat’s level yet, but has recognized the power of his celebrity through holding his own basketball camp the past three years in the Czech Republic.
“This is good to give something back to the community of the Czech Republic and giving something back to the small kids. They are really looking forward to meet me in the summer and it’s great,” he said.
Satoransky has already found creative ways to utilize his platform. Last summer, Satoransky chose several young kids from his basketball camp to act alongside him in a commercial for the Czech suiting company Blazek.
The opportunity to be in a commercial with Satoransky was a thrill for the kids and their families.
“That was pretty nice that they could be on TV,” he said.
There are many things Satoransky hopes to accomplish back home in the Czech Republic as his career continues and his platform grows. He would like to someday bring his Wizards teammates over to appear at his basketball camp, like Gortat has done in the past.
“For kids from my country to be able to see them would be amazing. I think it’s good to be planning those things. We have time in the summer,” he said.
For now, it’s about planting the seeds for bigger goals down the line.
“I look forward to it and I enjoy it and that’s the most important part,” he said.
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